Genealogy and researching family trees has become quite popular. Why the interest in tracing ancestral lines? This was not necessarily a popular hobby in the past. This can be seen by how difficult it can often be to track down your ancestors. Vital records were not kept formally by the government until recently and it is not altogether normal to find family trees all put together and complete from 100 or 200 years ago. Why then, has genealogy become so popular now?
I think that there are many reasons for the growing popularity of genealogy. First, as can be evidenced by the millions of subscribers to genealogical websites, the ability to research a family tree from the comfort of your own home has opened this door and piqued the interest of many. While these records have always been there, until recently, in order to search them, you would have to physically go to research libraries and archives facilities and manually search through indexes and documents trying to find what you’re looking for. This limited the number of partakers of family history to those who had the time and knowledge to do so. Also, geographic location caused an impediment for many as the records are housed in locations all over the world. Unless you physically went to the location where the records were, you didn’t have many options for obtaining documents. With the digitization of so many records (more and more are being put online every day), information is literally at the end of your fingertips via the internet. You can go online and find millions of records, all indexed and transcribed in ways to make record searches a breeze. While genealogy and family tree research still require quite a bit of time and dedication to achieve, there is no doubt of the increased “user-friendly” avenues available now.
Further, the increased ability to communicate and travel internationally has opened doors for family tree researchers. Through web-based programs allowing for quick communication and translation of documents and information, the language and location barriers of genealogical research are much less of a problem. Through genealogical forums specifically focused on the connection of international family tree researchers, we can now connect with people with common interests in family tree research and surnames as well as well as local records from abroad, from thousands of miles away. We can often be connected with long-lost or unknown of relatives via the internet. Through ancestral research programs like Ancestry.com and One Great Family, family tree researchers are brought together in their search for vital records and in the effort to trace your family tree. Also, the ability to travel internationally is much more popular, realistic and reasonably priced than it has been in the past. Family tree researchers who wish to travel to their ancestral homelands have the increased ability to do so.
The power of the media must also be considered as a contributing factor to the increased popularization of genealogy. In the last few years, many television shows have focused on tracing ancestral roots. NBC’s “Who Do You Think You Are” highlights celebrities who trace their family tree’s many generations and make the process seem easy. Their endless resources, assistance and budget aside, the show puts family tree research in the headlines and glamorizes it with the use of celebrities. PBS made a similar contribution with their similar version called “Faces of America”, among others. Putting the research of celebrity family trees in the headlines on prime time television, coupled with the introduction of endless commercials and advertisements from the major genealogy websites, shows the great impact that media has had on the increase of the popularity of family tree research.